Saturday, March 04, 2006

Hollis Gillespie cupcake interview



Around here, we're big fans of NPR commentator and author Hollis Gillespie, who writes a column for Atlanta's Creative Loafing and is the author of two books of autobiographical essays, Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch and Confessions of a Recovering Slut. She recently wrote about "Killer Cupcakes" and was kind enough to answer our cupcake interview questions. She's such a big cupcake fan that she talked about it on The Monica Kaufman Show (you can watch a clip here) and even made cupcakes on TV recently for Atlanta & Co. (You can be next: just write to us at cupcakestakethecake at yahoo.com and we'd be happy to interview you about cupcakes too!) Read on to find out about getting the most cupcake for your buck, how to safely travel with cupcakes, cupcakes on the cheap, her cupcake memories, and fun with pastry bags.

Name: Hollis Gillespie
Age: 42
Location: Atlanta
Occupation: writer/novelist/humor columnist/NPR commentator
URL: www.hollisgillespie.com

How often do you eat cupcakes?

My cupcake consumption has skyrocketed since my girl started kindergarten, but still it's not as much as it was when I was her age, when my mother used to push my sisters and me out the door with a tray of them to sell door to door. We charged a dime a piece and once a lady tried to buy the whole tray and we wailed at her to leave some for us.

What's the best thing about eating cupcakes?

Their wholeness. They are such a perfect little world in and of themselves. A slice of cake is just such an obvious disembodied part of another whole, with their innards all exposed.

What's your favorite type of cupcake?

I like spice-cake cupcakes, but only if they're frozen. Then, of course, the killer cupcakes are so good they will control your mind if you eat one.

Is there any innovation you'd like to see made to the cupcake that would improve it for you?

I made the innovation by sealing the frosting on the inside and plugging up the hole with fudge. Believe me, it's heaven.

Do you bake your own cupcakes? Or (even better) have someone who bakes them for you?

I bake them. My local grocer always has cake mix on sale, so I buy ten boxes at a time. My daughter and I live in a lovely old telephone factory, it's a huge building with great neighbors, and we used to put them in the hallway with a sign that read, "Mae's Killer Cupcakes, Take One, Make a Donation, All Proceeds Go to the Fall of Society." My kid raked it in. Our neighbors became total cupcake zombies, scratching at our door for more. Now Mae has cupcake accounts with three restaurants in Atlanta—granted she only makes two dozen at a time, and when she delivers them they're immediately eaten by the staff.

What's your first cupcake-related memory?

My mother making them with me so my sisters and I could sell them and earn money to go to the county fair. It was an annual ritual. My mother could not cook, mind you, this is a woman who built bombs for a living, but she could pull a cupcake together.

What's the most fun you've ever had with a cupcake?

My daughter getting the fudge frosting all over her face. I LOVE THAT.

You recently wrote about making "Killer Cupcakes" - how much trial and error did you go through to perfect that recipe?

It was a little arduous. There was no recipe I could reference, so I slapped it together on my own. I knew I wanted one that was portable, because the only bummer about cupcakes is that they can be sticky and it's not like you can throw them in a bag with a bunch of bananas and the rest of your lunch. So we invented (or ripped off the Hostess invention) one that you could leave on your car seat over night and eat the next morning with no downside. I thought the cream filling would be the biggest trouble, and at first it was. I bought this godawfully complicated stainless steel contraption with a nozzle on the end of it and nearly broke my arm with every squeeze. Then I finally figured out that a normal pastry bag with a normal wide-mouth tip could plooge it in just as well and with a fraction of the effort.

Your 5-year-old daughter is also crazy for cupcakes - do cupcakes have a different appeal for adults vs. kids? Does your daughter have a favorite kind of cupcake?

My daughter's favorite cupcake is vanilla, but I think that's because they're rare in our house. I experimented once and made them, but they weren't that popular overall, I couldn't perfect a white-chocolate version of the fudge topping, so my daughter would peel off the topping and just snarf it bald. Other failed experiments, the pumpkin-spice cupcake and the parmesan cupcake.

Do you have anything else to add?

When my sister and I were kids and used to sell the cupcakes door-to-door, there was this very heavy elderly neighbor of ours that was always good for at least half a dozen. We used to make fun of her because even her cats were fat. Then one day we came to the door and her grown daughter answered and told us that her mother was in the hospital because of her diabetes, and she told us her mother never even ate the cupcakes we sold her, but fed them to her cats instead. I always think back about how nice that woman was, to buy our cupcakes when she couldn't even eat them, and I've never made fun of a fat person since (pretty much).

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